LAWRENCE — A career that has spanned more than four decades and bridged multiple campuses at the University of Kansas is coming to a close. Ralph Oliver, director of KU Public Safety Office and chief of police, will retire Dec. 31.
Oliver, who began as a patrol officer for the state of Kansas in 1974, has worked on the KU Medical Center campus and currently oversees law enforcement and emergency management activities on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses.
“Ralph has been an important leader at KU during a time of immense change in both law-enforcement practices and public expectations,” said Diane Goddard, vice provost for administration and finance. “As director of KU Public Safety, he’s championed important improvements in equipment, services and techniques for a community with more than 29,000 individuals and countless visitors and guests. I’m grateful for his dedication to this crucial role.”
Assistant Director of Public Safety Chris Keary, who has been with the office since 1982, will serve as interim director of Public Safety beginning Jan. 1, 2016. A search for a permanent successor to Oliver will begin in the spring.
A native of Kansas City, Kansas, Oliver is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard. Upon returning to the region in 1974, he took a position as a patrol officer for Rainbow Mental Health Center near the KU Medical Center. In 1977, he became a police officer at KU Medical Center's Public Safety Office. During his seven years on the campus, he also held the ranks of detective, detective sergeant, lieutenant and assistant director. In 1984 he was named captain of the KU Public Safety Office on the Lawrence campus. In 1994 he was named associate director of the office. Oliver became director of KU Public Safety and chief of police in 1997.
As director of KU Public Safety Office, Oliver has worked to increase the visibility of the office among the KU community. He has worked to ensure security technology on campus is up-to-date and, working with KU Student Senate, has increased the number of body cameras worn by patrol officers. He has unified radio and emergency phone systems with the Lawrence-Douglas County Emergency Communications Center and added a full-time emergency management coordinator to the university’s structure.
Oliver is a life member of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He previously served as the northeast Kansas regional representative for the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police. He is a founding member and current board member of the Central States Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar. He is a member of the Big 12 Chiefs of Police, the Kansas Board of Regents’ Chiefs of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police.
“I truly appreciate Ralph’s service to this institution,” Goddard said. “His leadership and support of the people in his department ensure KU will be in good hands until a permanent successor is named. I know Chris Keary shares Ralph’s dedication to the university and will work hard to ensure KU is as safe and secure as possible.”
Keary, who also serves as assistant chief of police, leads a 28-officer contingent providing comprehensive law enforcement services to the Lawrence campus. He began his career as a student dispatcher with the department and then moved on to full-time employment as a communications operator, police officer and as a sergeant in both patrol and community services. In June 1998 he was selected as the assistant director of Public Safety and assistant chief of police and placed in charge of day-to-day operations of the police division.
Keary earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from KU and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Washburn University. He is a graduate of the 241st Session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy and the FBI Central States Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar. He has instructed courses in managing critical incidents at institutions of higher education and taught 300- and 400-level courses in incident command systems. He has served as adjunct faculty, teaching criminal justice courses at Washburn University.
He is a current member of the FBI National Academy Associates, FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.
A reception in Oliver’s honor will be from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 17 in the Malott Room of the Kansas Union. A short program reflecting on his service will begin at 3:30 p.m.